Jim Harbaugh took the college football world by storm when he was handed the reigns of the University of Michigan football program following the school’s disappointing 2014 campaign. Since then, Harbaugh has revitalized the program, leading the team to a 10-3 record and a Citrus Bowl victory. How he comes about his success is far from the standard approach.

Harbaugh made waves when he scheduled a team-bonding trip as part of the Wolverines spring practice schedule at Florida’s IMG Academy, a campus known for churning out top high school athletes to prepare them for the collegiate level. Bringing his team all the way down to Florida’s fertile recruiting grounds was a huge ploy by Harbaugh. Practices, which took place last week, drew roughly 5,000 fans and the furor of fellow coaches wondering how a college team could hold spring practice at a high school, especially one so far from its campus.

Harbaugh gladly took on the criticism Friday, when he and brother John were inducted into the Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High Athletics Hall of Fame.

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“Know the rules of the game,” Jim said. “I know the rules so thoroughly, know where we can gain an edge”

John defended his brother, saying that people were upset with Jim holding practice at IMG because “they didn’t think of it first.” John also praised him for pushing the envelope, adding that Jim doesn’t apologize for anything.

And Harbaugh didn’t just receive praise from his brother; Florida Coach Jim McElwain, who it could be argued had a lot to lose by the Wolverine’s presence in the Sunshine State, praised Harbaugh for his outside-the-box thinking.

“I kind of look it as more power to him,” McElwain said Tuesday. “It’s totally legal. He’s not doing anything that’s illegal. He’s pressing the envelopes. He’s putting their name in the paper every day. And, you know, that’s cool. I mean, I’d come to Florida, too.”

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Other coaches weighed in last June on what makes Jim tick and how he fits into the college football landscape. Most of it can be taken as praise:

  • “I think he’s nuts. He loves to stir the pot. He’ll have a very short shelf life — but he’s a very good football guy. I will be interested to see how he does there.” – Pac-12 coach.
  • “I’ve heard he’s really idiosyncratic. He seems almost Rain Man-ish.” – Big Ten assistant coach.
  • “Too many people in today’s world love to voice opinions and beliefs when convenient. Few represent who they are and what they believe daily.” – University of Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema.

Those colorful descriptors probably allude more to Harbaugh’s propensity for antics like climbing trees, baking state-shaped cakes and attending slumber parties, all in the service of landing recruits, than decisions about spring practice location. Either way, certainly has turned the recruiting game on its head.

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